Building a brighter future in Aotearoa
Ezra Hirawani is determined to find solutions for whānau without power and he has been recognised for his mahi with the 2022 University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year Award – Te Mātātahi o te Tau. Ezra co-founded Nau Mai Rā, a purpose-built, kaupapa Māori energy retailer, delivering affordable, “always-on” power after discovering how many families lived in power poverty. An estimated 100,000 New Zealanders find it hard to pay for power. The Nau Mai Rā model asks customers to pay their bills weekly and cultivates mana-enhancing relationships, and it has resulted in one of the industry’s lowest debt rates. “Nau Mai Rā is truly building a brighter future in Aotearoa. Ezra’s initiative in response to a clear need for whānau across Aotearoa without power has had an incredible impact on many lives, and that is something to be proud of,” says UC’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey.
In 2022, UC ran its inaugural UC Vision Mātauranga Development Fund and awarded NZ$100,000 to seven successful projects as a mechanism to support Vision Mātauranga. Among the successful applicants who are to lead the research projects, 59% identified as Māori.
Student Volunteer Army (SVA)
The UC SVA regularly organises food drives and distributes food parcels to local communities. For over 10 years, SVA has grown to a national movement of young people actively involved in their communities and continues to be one of the biggest student groups on campus. UC is proud to support the SVA to make a positive difference, not only within the local community, but across the wider Aotearoa New Zealand.
Centre for Entrepreneurship
UC is home to Te Pokapū Rakahinonga the Centre for Entrepreneurship which offers a social enterprise program that aims to address poverty by creating sustainable business models. The Centre connects, challenges and supports students and staff to create impact by building capabilities in entrepreneurship and innovation. Programmes and events are designed to broaden minds, challenge ideas and empower students to make a real difference.
Te Pātaka, the student hub, houses a number of co-located services to support students with services such as access to Kaitoko (academic advisors) including Kaiurungi Māori and Pacific (Māori and Pacific student advisors). Having these services in one space also allows other staff to improve their knowledge and expertise in areas like the academic advising skills of Kaiurungi, and the pastoral and cultural capabilities of Kaitoko. Another benefit is it helps align our plans for targeted assistance for priority students.
UC Pasifika graduates celebrate their success
Graduates and their families were invited to formally acknowledge their success and achievements at the Pasifika Graduation Celebration in December. This was also an opportunity to come together as a community to thank whānau for supporting students through their time at UC.
Building a better Aotearoa
The University of Canterbury’s Young New Zealander of the Year award recognises those that build a better Aotearoa. Semi-finalist, Abbas Nazari, graduated from UC with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours degree. Nazari’s journey with his family as a child refugee from Afghanistan to New Zealand is harrowing, and the success he’s achieved since is exceptional.
Scholarships at UC
We offer over NZ$20 million in scholarships and prizes annually to help fund our students’ study.
UC understands that a university education is a major investment, and a scholarship might just provide the helping hand needed to make university life a little easier. We offer a wide range of scholarships, many recognising factors like academic excellence or sporting achievement. Others have an emphasis on social inclusion and equality and are awarded on the basis of financial need or other hardship.
Society and Policy
Our Society and Policy course looks at how health and wellbeing services are regulated and managed. The course examines health services and policies in New Zealand and find ways to better access, process, and engage with vulnerable communities. By understanding the impact health policies have on society, students gain the skills needed to work in the public health and social policy sectors and make meaningful changes to the help people need.
Our Free Tables are a great way of keeping perfectly usable items out of the landfill and helping each other out by giving things away. Typically, Free Tables are placed in areas where there is high foot traffic. Surplus items are placed on the tables for students and staff to repurpose or recycle them. Items are usually sourced from different offices in that building, or staff and students occasionally place their own items on them as well. Items placed on Free Tables are at the discretion of UC staff or students and could include office stationery items that are no longer required by UC staff/students; books and textbooks; small household items, homewares and crockery; non-perishable food items; clothing in good, clean condition. Students usually clear items off Free Tables very quickly.
We know that being a student can be financially challenging at the best of times, and that rising living costs are only making things more difficult. We don’t want students to try to ‘tough it out’ or assume that someone else needs the support more. If a student is currently experiencing temporary financial difficulty, they could be eligible for support. We have a range of possible financial support structures available for students, including separate funding for technology or internet issues.
Humanitarian Engineering Tackling Poverty
UC’s Global Humanitarian Engineering programme combines multiple disciplines, such as history, anthropology, Māori studies, and sociology, as well as rigorous engineering basics, to address improving the lives of disadvantaged people and under-served communities. The programme’s intention is to provide students with the opportunity to develop beyond their core engineering degree, to better understand the communities, cultures and societies in which engineering occurs.
“If engineers can better understand the appropriate technologies they work on, the social and environmental sustainability of the engineering projects, then ideally that will improve, and sustain, the economic and educational opportunities of people and communities”, says Dr Matthew Hughes, Programme Co-Director.
Capstone projects for 2020 involved students focusing on a social vulnerability assessment of communities including a Marae exposed to flood waters in Wellington, and designing a micro hydro-electric generation system for isolated communities in Nepal. More than 30 students have completed the diploma since 2017.
UCSA Support for Students
The University of Canterbury’s Student Association (UCSA) provides a number welfare options (food, medical, travel, accommodation) to support both domestic and international students in times of financial difficulty. For students experiencing temporary financial hardship for something unforeseen or unexpected there is the Hardship Grant. The Mickle Fund Loan is for students unable to pursue their studies or seriously constrained in doing so. The Medical Prescription Grant provides financial support for unexpected medical expenses, for short-term emergency support.
Child Well-being Research Institute
Health, well-being, development and education of children and young people are at the core of UC’s Child Well-being Research Institute. The Institute advances high quality, multidisciplinary research to enhance the healthy wellbeing and learning success of infants, children and adolescents within the context of their whānau, family and community, particularly the needs of Māori and Pasifika communities. Its research supports the Government’s aspirations, strategy and measuring of success for the children and youth of Aotearoa.
Support for Students Impacted by COVID-19
UC students affected by the pressures of COVID-19 during 2020 were offered an array of support and assistance, from welfare checks, pastoral care, IT support, scholarship/stipend extensions, to a unique fund related to COVID-19 financial hardship. Other assistance included the Foodbank and longer term Food Support Service. Advisors in Te Waka Pākākano worked with our Māori, Pacific and Rainbow students to identify the appropriate support needed. Support Services made phone calls to 4,600 students during lockdown to personally check on their welfare, and about 150 students were offered direct pastoral care. IT provided over 90 students with access to hardware, and about 360 students were given advice/support to improve their internet connectivity.
The Postgraduate Research Office provided targeted support for postgraduate research students. Over 100 Doctoral Scholarship recipients, who had their research affected by the lockdown, were provided up to two months scholarship extensions (stipends and fees). An additional grant was available to doctoral students experiencing hardship, and bursary funds provided financial support to 54 students experiencing hardship, as a result of COVID-19. A new scholarship policy was introduced for doctoral and research masters students, who received a one month fees free extension to their thesis submission date.
New Fund to Support Students
UC Foundation launched a new fund in 2020 specifically to support students suffering hardship or challenges that made it difficult for them to continue or return to their studies during the COVID-19 environment. The new support fund, Kono Iti, could be used by students in different ways, such as with transport, books, additional expenses associated with vulnerable or immune-compromised students or family, extra energy costs or other special needs caused by the extraordinary environment faced. In addition, the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, together with all members of UC Council, volunteered a 20% pay reduction for six months, which went towards funding to support students experiencing hardship.